How to Empower Not Delegate as a Leader


Have you ever wondered what separates leaders from managers? The list is long, and it includes things like inspiration instead of motivation and visionary instead of temporary. However, one significant difference is under your control and, more important than ever today, empowering rather than delegating.  

A common piece of advice from executives trying to help less experienced managers is, “you have to delegate more.” While the suggestion of taking things off of your plate and putting them on someone else’s makes sense on the surface, the intention behind the ask makes the difference.  

If you take nothing else from this column, I want you to take this:

When leaders delegate, it’s about them. When leaders empower, it’s about others. 

Empower vs. Delegate

One of the most significant mistakes leaders make is confusing delegation and empowerment. So let’s get on the same page about the difference between them.  

Harvard Business Review defines delegation this way. Delegation refers to the transfer of responsibility for specific tasks from one person to another. From a management perspective, delegation occurs when a manager assigns specific tasks to their employees.

According to Oxford Dictionary, Empowerment is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights” It enables others to be responsible for and take ownership over something. 

In Building the Best, I defined leadership as inspiring, empowering, and serving in order to elevate others. Empowering others to make decisions is an essential part of successful leadership today.  

A Mindset Shift is Required

A great example of the difference between delegating and empowering arose during one of my recent coaching calls with a rising star named Kara. Kara’s clinic was performing well, but she was getting burned out because she did everything. When asked what would help her, she replied, “I could delegate our supply buying process to one of my team members.”

While it was a great idea, she was thinking about delegation instead of empowerment. So I challenged her to change her thinking. “Instead of simply asking a team member to start ordering supplies, what if you empowered them to improve the supply buying process?”

Immediately Kara’s shifted her mindset from delegation to empowerment. This was her response as she roleplayed the conversation with her team member, “I have been thinking about how we can improve our supply buying process. Since you are so detail-oriented and a great negotiator, would you be open to taking ownership of our supply buying process for the next three months to see how it goes?”

Empowering team members transfers belief and ownership.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the difference in how the empowerment approach transfers belief and ownership versus delegating a potentially dull task.

Why Empowerment is Essential Today

Since the invention of the assembly line, delegating tasks to employees has made sense. However, thanks to remote work due to Covid-19, employees want something different and demand flexibility.  

On a recent episode of the Work-Life Podcast with Adam Grant, when describing the need for companies to rethink flexibility at work, he said, “managers are constantly creating constraints and limiting opportunities. What’s required is more flexibility while still meeting organizational objectives.” 

Today’s workplace requires more flexibility while still meeting organizational objectives.

As obvious as this may sound, its execution is ridiculously challenging. However, the payoff is a more engaged, innovative, and committed team. 

How Leaders Can Empower Others

Now that it’s clear the best leaders empower instead of delegate, how can you do it more effectively? Here are a few ideas to explore:

  1. Build a Bond of Mutual Trust 

Empowerment requires high levels of trust. Specifically, trust that’s bound together from every corner of the organization. Trust is simply consistency over time. This means trust is earned through a two-way street paved by consistent action. 

Trust is earned through a two-way street paved by consistent action. 

A street paved with leaders giving others a chance to earn flexibility so they can be empowered to do their best work, then team members willing to be patient and prove they are trustworthy.  

2. Focus on Mutual Commitments 

There is a big difference between being interested and being committed. The easiest way to have confidence that empowering others is the next move is to have a group of people committed to the mission, each other, and the effort required to succeed. 

One way to ensure you have this level of mutual commitment is for each team member to write or say, “My commitment is…” As simple as this may sound, our words are our bond. People are more likely to follow through if they verbally commit to themselves and someone else about their plan and intentions. 

People are more likely to follow through if they verbally commit to themselves and someone else about their plan and intentions. 

3. Share Common Values and Purpose

Money is easily the most popular incentivizing tool organizations use to retain and recruit employees. While pay is significant, it’s not the most important. People give their best effort when on a team that shares values and purpose. 

People give their best effort on a team that shares values and purpose. 

A consistent and systematic approach to aligning core values and communicating the deeper purpose behind the work is imperative. There is nothing worse than defining and talking about core values, yet leaders are not demonstrating them. Leaders are the primary driver of core values, so they must embody them correctly. 


If I told you it’s easy to empower others, I would be lying. Most people, myself included, have a difficult time giving up control. However, if you want to act and behave like the best leaders, empowering others is precisely what you need to do.  

If behaving like the best leaders isn’t enough, consider the business metrics you will positively impact, such as reduced turnover, increased revenue, and improved productivity. 

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Lose the Respect of Your Team in One Simple Step

Most leaders put in the effort to earn respect, while others naively rely on their title to provide it. Regardless of the way it is gained, without respect, you can’t lead. At best, you can manage others but forget the idea of getting the best out of a team. This is why the second leadership principle in Building the Best is: Without strong relationships, you can’t lead.  

Even the thought of losing the respect of someone or something a leader cares about can cause a pit in their stomach to form.  Research suggests that overall happiness in life is more related to how much you are respected and admired by those around you, not to the status that comes from the amount of money you make or have.

Commanding and Demanding Respect Isn’t The Answer.

While the position a leader is in often comes with built-in respect, it can’t and won’t sustain respect for an extended period. Respect is earned, and it’s earned through a lot of hard work and correct decision making. As Paulo Coelho said, “Respect is for those who deserve it, not for those who demand it.”

Once respect is lost, gaining it back is one of the hardest things a leader can do. Leaders lose the respect of their people for all different kinds of reasons. Often, it’s lost for a big intentional decision that is glaringly selfish. 

Through my experience working with leaders from all industries in a variety of positions, it’s most common that leaders lose respect not because of one of these big decisions, but because of a collection of subtle choices, often without awareness of their mistakes.  

Here are a few common examples:

  • Not standing up to someone or something that’s wrong
  • Treating team members differently based on personal relationships
  • Refusal to confront the bully on the team
  • Interrupting others while they are speaking
  • Physically being in a meeting but not being mentally present
  • Hearing but not actively listening to team members
  • Not keeping their word when they say they will do something

If you have been in a position of leadership for any length of time, you know your people are watching your every move and listening to the words that come out of your mouth. 

Take a good look at your actions. Are you guilty of any of these? We all make mistakes, but respect is lost when habits form, and people aren’t self-aware enough to recognize their pattern of behavior.  

Here’s how the best leaders cultivate a culture of respect on their team and you can too: 

Look beyond commonalities

It sounds almost foolish for me to have to write this given our current environment, but each person on a team is equal. They might not play the same role or contribute to the overall success of a team in the same way, but the moment team members start being treated differently is the moment your trust begins to erode.   

Your human nature will have you gravitating toward people who act like you, look like you, or that you get along with personally. While there is nothing wrong with this by itself, leaders tend to give special treatment, attention, and let mistakes slide for these people. All leaders are challenged to overcome different biases in order to have better respect-filled relationships across their team.  

If you want more respect in your culture, look beyond commonalities. Be consistent with the opportunities available and the accountability leveraged with each member of the team.  

Do what’s right, always

There are many critical questions leaders should not only ask themselves in their careers and have an answer for. One of the crucial questions you must ask yourself and be able to clearly answer is: Who do I want to be as a leader?  

It’s a deep question, but if you don’t have an answer for it, there is a good chance you don’t have boundaries of your character. This might not be a problem when everything is going well, but it becomes a problem when tough situations arise or decisions have to be made that are on the border of right and wrong.  

Questionable decisions start small. As an example, rarely does a criminal’s first offense start with robbing a bank. It starts small indiscretions and escalates over time. 

Since your people are watching, doing what is right under pressure will always be something that builds respect. Knowing who you want to become as a leader will help guide these tough decisions and do what’s right. I shared some ideas about making positive daily deposits to help you in a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast.

Share the truth, even if it hurts

Many leaders struggle to share hard truths with their people out of fear of the reaction or the uncomfortable nature of the conversation. Regardless of the reason, sharing the truth is a powerful way to earn respect.

Sharing hard truths, while difficult, shows your people you care about the team and them enough to help them get better in the future. As I tell people in our virtual leadership workshops, if you have information that can help someone else improve and you don’t share it, you are only hurting them. 

The best part of getting into the habit of sharing the truth is your team will appreciate your courage and willingness to share it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes until it’s just part of your culture. 

Empower people to make decisions

As a leader, you are ultimately responsible for everything your team does. However, if you make all the decisions, your people won’t reach their full potential, and won’t achieve the level of success you desire.

Empowering your people to make decisions is a fast track to creating a culture of respect. Check out this story of a manager from Chick-fil-A, empowering her people to make decisions.


Remember, respect is earned and without it, you can’t lead. Heade this warning: it can also be eroded in an instant. Don’t take it for granted. 

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is currently scheduling virtual workshops an keynotes. Learn more about the talks. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Uncomplicated Habit That Makes You a Leader

Business leadership concept

Traditional thinking would have you believe you need a title to be considered a leader. Conventional thinking is wrong. A title doesn’t make a leader; your actions do.  

In my book, Building the Best, I define a leader as:

“someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.”

People who live out this definition don’t wait for a title — and acting this way isn’t reserved for the select few. Being a leader is for you, because when your actions inspire, empower, and serve others, not only will the performance of the people around you go up, your own performance will too.  

Research done by the Global Leadership Forecast over the last eight years has seen the continued slippage in leadership as a bench strength. In 2018, only 14 percent of companies had a strong bench, the lowest number the study has ever seen. Not only are these scary numbers, but it makes it even more critical for you to take personal responsibility for the development of your leadership skills. 

There’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. Therein is why much of the primary roles of a manager can be automated and replaced by technology. On the other hand, there has never been a more important time in our history to be a leader. 

The business environment we work in is more competitive and has more challenges than ever before.  One leader and a group of managers in an organization is yesterday’s way of thinking. What’s required today is an army of leaders at every level of an organization. One’s that are driven by rejecting the notion that their job is all about themselves and instead focus on elevating others.

The 3 Second Habit to Help You Make the Transition

If you are going to make the transition from manager to leader it will require a lot of hard work and effort. It isn’t going to happen overnight because leadership is a journey and not a destination. But like all important transitions, it starts with choices and habits.  

My friend, Amber Selking, defined a habit on the Follow My Lead Podcast as “something you do so often it becomes the very essence of your being.” There is a simple 3-second habit you can implement to move towards a leader mentality, it’s what I refer to in Building the Best as the “PTS Method.” 

PTS stands for “Prepare to Serve.” The method is simple, anytime you change your environment, you say to yourself, “prepare to serve.”  

When you walk in the house each night before you open the door say, “prepare to serve.”

When you walk into the office each day before you open the door say, “prepare to serve.”

When you get ready to walk into a team meeting, say to yourself, “prepare to serve.”

The simple habit of transforming your mind to thinking about others and serving them will be reflected in your actions. While there are many skills and competencies to develop in order to help your transition from manager to leader, this is the simplest and most effective one I know.  

What do you do to help you keep the mindset of a leader instead of a manager?

Elevate the Way You LeadBuilding the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill. It was named the #1 Best New Management Books to Read by Book Authority. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.